The lighthouse was built on land presented to the Government by a local farmer, Mr Eric Riddiford. Work commenced on the buildings, the lighthouse, and radio beacon towers in 1934. The Baring Head light was first lit in June 1935.
Baring Head was the first manned light to be built in New Zealand for 22 years. The previous manned lighthouse, Castle Point, was built in 1913. The lights built between 1913 and 1935 were all unmanned.
The light at Pencarrow Head had guided ships into Wellington Harbour before Baring Head Lighthouse was built. First lit in 1859, the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse was the first major lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. The old Pencarrow light was extinguished when the Baring Head light started operating.